Football fans around the country reacted with anger when Huddersfield Town ran onto the pitch for a friendly against Rochdale wearing a shirt that was emblazoned with the name of betting company Paddy Power. Betting companies sponsoring football clubs isn’t anything new, of course, but it was the fact that the logo appeared in a large sash that from the bottom right to the top left of the kit that caused the problems.
It has since been revealed that the kit was part of a campaign from Paddy Power to, ironically, save football shirts from being plastered with sponsor logos. The kit was used for a one-off match to draw attention to the issue surrounding large and ugly logos being on kits, with Huddersfield Town’s new kit for the season not bearing any sponsor whatsoever, even though Paddy Power is entitled to put its logo there.
The Initial Controversy
Huddersfield Town’s friendly against Rochdale on the 17th of this month was notable not for footballing reasons, but rather because of the look of the Terriers’ kit. The kit was ‘launched’ on the morning of the game, with social media mocking the appalling state of the shirt and wondering what was next for football shirts. The Football Association also got involved, contacting the club about the matter.
It was felt by many that the new shirt breached several rules that the FA has put in place over kits, with many feeling that the design might well have been created specifically to earn a ban from football’s organising body in order to earn publicity. It turned out to be exactly right, following in the footsteps of similar moves from the Irish betting company that have been carried out in previous events.
During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, for example, the bookie ‘shaved’ the phrase ‘C’Mon England PP’ into the rainforest. It was later revealed that the stunt was done in collaboration with Greenpeace to draw attention to the issues in the country. In 2018, when the World Cup was in Russia, the bookmaker had a St. George’s flag sprayed onto a polar bear, later revealing it to be a stunt to draw attention to the plight of the animal.
The ‘Save Our Shirt’ Campaign Revealed
Now we know that the Huddersfield Town kit is another stunt that can be added to the list, with Paddy Power confirming that the original kit was nothing more than a prank. Many suspected as much, but most imagined that the Irish bookmaker would simply swap the giant logo for a much smaller one once the initial publicity stunt had worked its magic. Instead, they’ve asked for the logo to be removed entirely.
The idea behind the campaign is to ask companies, including fellow betting sites, to remove logos from football shirts entirely. Paddy Power have said that football shirts ‘are not billboards’. The company’s Managing Director, Victor Corcoran, said:
Shirt sponsorship in football has gone too far. We accept that there is a role for sponsors around football, but the shirt should be sacred. So, today we are calling on other sponsors to join the Save Our Shirt campaign, and give something back to the fans. As a sponsor, we know our place, and it’s not on your shirt.
Paddy Power has also chosen to donate the sponsorship of the club’s training kits to the charitable Huddersfield Town Foundation. It wasn’t just the home kit that Paddy Power used to make its point, either. The away kit also featured logos from the bookmaker, which celebrated the club’s one hundred and ten year history by having one hundred and ten paddy power logos on it.
Is It Really About ‘Saving Shirts’?
Whilst the initial notion of trying to stop football shirts from being taken over for shameless promotion by various companies, it’s likely that Paddy Power’s real reason for the campaign is about more than that. With more than half of the teams in England’s top two divisions due to be sponsored by betting companies this season, the Irish bookie needed to find something different to take on the competition.
According to Joel Seymour-Hyde, who is the Head of UK Operations at Octagon, the advertising agency that worked with Paddy Power for the campaign, the bookmaker was the perfect company to do this because they’ve long combined sports betting with ‘mischief’. Having been involved in other campaigns around single issues, the company has history of doing just this sort of thing.
The encouragement to get other betting companies to also drop their logos on football shirts was never likely to pay off, it has gained Paddy Power a wealth of publicity that money can’t buy. They have the photos of the Huddersfield Town kit emblazoned with their logo in the public domain, as well as the ‘good will’ that accompanies not having a logo on it at all. Some will argue it’s the perfect advertising campaign.